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Indiana Gov. Pledges Support for Charters, Pre-K Vouchers

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence pledged to push to expand the state's voucher program to pre-K students and to bolster state support for charter schools, in a speech to lawmakers Thursday.

As part of his 2014 legislative agenda, the Republican governor proposed an expansion of the state's already broad voucher program that would allow families to use state funds to send their preschoolers to public or private pre-K education providers. The vouchers would be available to those who earn up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level, Gov. Pence said in his remarks.

In addition, he promised to "make it easier for charter networks to operate in the Hoosier state," by allowing charter schools to operate in unused school buildings and providing subsidies to teachers who choose to work in low-performing district-run schools or charter schools serving mostly disadvantaged students.

"There's been a lot of talk in recent years about parental choice, student choice. Well, I think it's time to give teachers some choices and be able to choose where they want to teach without worrying about losing the pay that they've earned over the years of their service," he said.

In response to the governor's agenda, Indiana House Minority Leader Scott Pelath criticized the plan, saying it "[leaves] our state's middle class by the side of the road."

"Once again, the improvements in our state's educational system are weighted toward vouchers and charter schools available to only a select few. Our traditional public classrooms are forgotten," he said in a statement.

As the Associated Press reports, both Democrats and Republicans in the state have pushed for an expansion of pre-K education, but Democrats would rather see the creation of public preschools as opposed to vouchers.

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